• By Dana Sparks

Home Remedies: Can Ginkgo biloba prevent memory loss?

April 25, 2018

a branch of a ginkgo tree with bright green leaves in the sunlight

Ginkgo biloba extract, derived from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree, is often touted as a memory aid. But it appears unlikely that Ginkgo biloba extract can slow or prevent age-related memory problems, or memory loss associated with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease.

Several small, early studies showed modest improvements in cognitive function for older adults with dementia. However, a number of larger studies haven't confirmed that Ginkgo biloba extract prevents memory loss or slows the progression of cognitive decline or Alzheimer's disease in older adults. In adults with normal cognition or mild cognitive impairment, Ginkgo biloba does not slow cognitive decline.

Although some studies have shown slight improvements in cognitive function for people taking Ginkgo biloba, most experts feel that Ginkgo biloba hasn't lived up to its early promise and don't recommend its use as a memory aid.

- Written by Dr. Jonathan Graff-Radford 

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Overview

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is one of the oldest living tree species. Most ginkgo products are made with extract prepared from its fan-shaped leaves.

The most helpful components of ginkgo are believed to be flavonoids, which have powerful antioxidant qualities, and terpenoids, which help improve circulation by dilating blood vessels and reducing the "stickiness" of platelets.

Ginkgo is commonly available as an oral tablet, extract, capsule or tea. Don't eat raw or roasted ginkgo seeds, which can be poisonous.

Most research on ginkgo focuses on its effect on dementia, memory and pain caused by too little blood flow (claudication).

Evidence

Research on ginkgo use for specific conditions shows:

  • Dementia. There isn't enough evidence to support the use of ginkgo to prevent dementia or treat people with mild cognitive impairment.
  • Claudication. A review of the research suggests that taking ginkgo has no significant benefits for people with this condition.

Ginkgo's effect on memory enhancement has had conflicting results. While some evidence suggests that ginkgo extract might modestly improve memory in healthy adults, most studies indicate that ginkgo doesn't improve memory, attention or brain function.

While ginkgo appears to be safe in moderate amounts, research doesn't support use of the supplement to prevent or slow dementia or cognitive decline. Further research is needed to find out what role ginkgo might play in supporting brain function and treating other conditions.

More health and medical information can be found on mayoclinic.org.

 

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